Seeing Aurelia walking through the streets of Lynchwood was surreal. The woman’s immaculate clothing starkly out of place, all white and blue in a sea of burning amber. Hair having turned more grey, only streaks of black left in it. Her intimidating stature not stooped an inch.
For Athena, Nisha, and Timothy it was like seeing a ghost.
For Angel and Gaige… mostly just confusing.
Both looking to their elders with a curious, intense gaze as they waited to be introduced. But they were left just blindly following, not understanding how Aurelia could even possibly know where she was going.
Had she been here before? How did she know everyone else? Did she know everyone else? She could always just be a friend of Nisha’s, used to visiting her in Lynchwood. But that didn’t make sense, Timothy had jumped to attention and been at her beck and call in a heartbeat. So she must know the both of them. Athena didn’t look surprised either. Where’d she come from and why was she here now?
“Who is she?” Gaige interlaced their fingers on the back swing, lagging her back, “I don’t… recognize her.”
Of course, Gaige was thinking about Angel’s almost total omnipresence. Thinking surely her super smart, cool, clever girlfriend knew who this badass was.
Angel wasn’t used to not knowing things, whispering to Gaige her best guess, “Well… I couldn’t watch what was going on while everyone was on Elpis… she must be another one of the Vault Hunters from back then? They’ve mentioned a woman named… something with an ‘A’? I’m sorry, it’s not much to go off.”
She barely closed her eye in time to brace for the jump-peck on her cheek. Gaige just swinging her hand harder, “Don’t apologize, I mean, you already know soooo much. Can’t know everything.”
The others didn’t catch their quiet aside, too preoccupied with Aurelia pushing open the doors to city hall like she owned the place.
- - -
Inside, the somewhat shabby room was cut in half by a large meeting table spanning the length of the slightly rotted wood floor. Countless nicks and carvings in every available surface, commemorating lost loves or someone having been there. Chairs a mismatched mess, constantly in a state of being broken and replaced.
Aurelia didn’t hesitate to sit at the head, a seat usually reserved for Nisha. A nice one, high backed and cushioned. The yellowy glare at that was acknowledged but surprisingly Nisha didn’t challenge her. Merely pulling up the closest chair and sitting down with a slightly less combative than expected, “What are you doing here?”
“Oh, Aurelia by my stars and spangles!” the woman shifted down from her posh accent to an embellished cowgirl one, “I’m just so gosh darned excited to see you again! Howdy, howdy, howdy!!”
“I ain’t sound like that,” Nisha seethed.
“No you don’t because you didn’t wax poetic about seeing me for even a second!” Aurelia flipped a hand in a circle, “None of you did! Never in my life have I been more disappointed! And here I thought I’d show up to rausing applause. I should just pack myself back up on your disgusting little train and leave again.”
Eyeballing the bags on the ground, thinking about how much he didn’t want to drag them back through Lynchwood again in the same burning afternoon, Timothy gave her at least a fragment of what she wanted, “For what it’s worth? I missed you a lot, Aurelia. Thought I was never gonna see you again.”
“Kiss ass bi-” Nisha shot him a glare, cut short by a sharp kick to the shin by an immaculate leather boot.
“And that’s why you were always my favorite, my dear Timothy,” Aurelia dug around in her pocket and handed him a couple hundreds which he stooped to grab, “You always know just to say. Buy yourself something nice, darling.”
He didn’t seem demeaned by the way she patted his head like a little boy after he took the money, eyeballing it greedily.
“It’s not that we’re unhappy to see you, it’s just… sudden,” Athena pulled out a seat and leaned over the table at her, “And you kinda came in hot. Ironically.”
“Well, it’s quite important and I’d say it’s decently time sensitive,” Aurelia crossed her legs, hands neatly stacked on her knee, “How would the five of you like to help me take down Helios? I’ve got an ‘in’, as they say.”
The way she leaned on that word said ‘they think I’m a doddering old rich lady.’
“So that’s what you’ve got rattling around in your head?” Nisha didn’t sit, even as the other did. Standing there, arms crossed, almost like she expected her chair back.
“Well, you see, I wasn’t invited along on your little… Jack Off-”
“Please don’t call it that,” Tim groaned.
Aurelia obliged, silently, “Well, I didn’t get to come and kill Jack so I want a piece of the proverbial pie. I was just as duped into helping him as you’d all been, I’m quite disappointed in all of you that you didn’t get ahold of me. You didn’t even try.”
Her gaze was most pointedly aimed at Timothy, who defended himself with, “Nobody had any idea where you’d went or how to get ahold of you…”
“I own a whole planet,” she scoffed.
“Yeah, you never told us where the planet was or even what it was named,” Nisha cut in.
Athena corroborated, “Not to mention Jack blocked interplanetary communications.”
While she was self-important, she wasn’t unreasonable. Aurelia pursing her lips, “Well. I want my dues. And are you even going to introduce me to these young ladies or am I to stare at them vacantly for the rest of my visit? Perhaps rename them myself? Hilda and Anastasia?”
“Why do I have to be Hilda?” Gaige complained.
“Smart girl,” Aurelia tilted her head, nailing Gaige in four words, “Impudent though.”
“The redhead is Gaige, one of the Vault Hunters going after Jack,” Athena nodded towards her, “And the other is Angel, she’s-”
“Well,” Aurelia examined the girl, from head to toe, “I can take a guess who she is, given that unlike you all I’ve lovingly kept tabs on what you’re up to.”
Jack’s daughter. Her healthier appearance made that even harder to hide. Tall and strong, sharp features, with those telltale blue-green eyes peeking from behind her shaggy black hair.
“Is it that obvious?” Angel lamented.
“Well, if you makes you feel any better, you’re a great deal less ugly and unpleasant than him,” Aurelia replied before turning her attention back to the older crowd, “Well then, with that taken care of, what do you say?”
For a second Athena and Nisha looked between themselves, both knowing the answer.
Nisha answered for both of them, “Can’t. We just started up Lynchwood again and if we leave now the whole thing would just fall to pieces. End of the day I’m not a Vault Hunter anymore, I’m a Sheriff. Got responsibilities now.”
Aurelia opened her mouth but wasn’t able to talk as a spark had leapt into Angel’s eyes, “You don’t need all of us, right? Me and Gaige could go.”
“Absolutely not,” Athena’s look stony even in the face of Angel beginning to pout, “You’ve never been off planet let alone right into the heart of enemy territory.”
“I killed Handsome Jack.”
“You had all of us with you.”
“I mean, I’ll have Gaige and Aurelia,” Angel instantly putting a ton of faith in the tall, imposing woman despite knowing nothing about her. Feeling like it was a safe bet regardless.
Looking down at her nails blatantly not visible through her gloves, Aurelia grinned at the praise, “I do like to brag and I am QUITE good at what I do.”
“And I became a Vault Hunter as a totes untrained fresh high school graduate!” Gaige vouched, “Well, I mean, I didn’t graduate but still! She’s got way more experience than I did then!”
“I took down Saturn too,” Angel nodded.
“Well, she sounds more than capable to me,” Aurelia replied, pulling out an abnormally immaculate ECHO device and tapping away on it, “Of course, I’d pay them both handsomely. Pun intended.”
“No way,” Athena stood up, pushing her chair back with a loud noise, “It was nice seeing you but maybe it’s time for you to go, since this whole thing is such a pressing matter. Better get up there and crash it or take it over or whatever you’re trying to do.”
As they’d debated her fate Angel’d stayed quiet. Lost in thought for a moment but as the awkward silence fell over them…
“I’m twenty-two, almost twenty-three,” Angel said, slowly as if the concepts were foreign to her, “I’m an adult, you can’t stop me.”
That brought things grinding to a standstill.
“She’s right, you know,” Aurelia’s voice dripped with smugness as she stood back up and walked over to her, hands on Angel’s now-strong shoulders, “Bright young woman like her can do whatever she wants. Isn’t that right, dear?”
“It is,” Angel stood her ground, only softening the very edges, “I don’t… want to make you guys mad or anything but… I only killed my dad, not his legacy. As long as that space station is hanging over my head, Jack’ll always be alive. This is my chance to change that, my first real journey as a Vault Hunter. Not in bits and pieces, not with anyone holding my hand. I’m ready.”
For all Nisha’s commanding nature she looked to Athena for this one, not as confident in her ability to make guardianship decisions still.
Athena’s sigh was heavy, “If you must, take Timothy too.”
Gaige’s whoop of victory filled the room in a sharp spike of noise, “HELL YEAH! C’mon, babe, let’s go PACK!”
Angel wasn’t able to protest that one, dragged away in a tornado of excitement before she could barely register anything that had just transpired.
- - -
“You’re secretly hoping one of them will offer to go too, huh?” Nisha affectionately ran a hand through Athena’s hair, ending in a sharp, teasing tug.
The ECHO in her hands was hovering over the name ‘Lilith’, Athena staring pointedly at the worn out carpet at her feet, “Maybe.”
“If you could pick one person to go with th-”
“Ohhh, good choice,” Nisha slid down around her shoulders, peck on the cheek, “I would have picked Krieg. Wanna see the ECHO footage of the dude just going apeshit on some Hyperion desk jockeys.”
“I don’t like this, Nisha.”
“Me either but… Angel’s right. She’s an adult.”
Sighing heavily again, Athena closed her eyes, “Tell me it’s going to be alright.”
“It’s gonna be alright, probably.”
Nisha laughed, running a hand across her shoulders, “Call Lilith, let her at least know what’s going on. Maybe she’ll offer someone. Hell, maybe she’ll go. Won’t know until you call her.”
Athena nodded and finally pressed the button.